Thinking about breast reconstruction
Deciding whether to have breast reconstruction or when to have it will depend on your individual situation. You're the best person to know what feels right for you.
It’s important you feel happy with your decision. You can discuss it with your surgeon, breast care nurse, family or friends. There are also support organisations that can help.
If you have had, or are going to have, a mastectomy as part of your cancer treatment, you are entitled to free breast reconstruction on the NHS. There are many options for breast reconstruction available.
It’s important that you have the chance to discuss your options for breast reconstruction before your mastectomy. You don’t have to make a definite decision about it at this stage, but it will help the surgeon to plan your initial surgery.
Because I’m such an active person, I don’t want this false boob in my bra all the time. It’s inconvenient.
Women have breast reconstruction for different reasons. You may choose it so that you won’t need to wear a false breast (breast prosthesis/form), or you may feel that breast reconstruction will help you feel more confident or feminine.
Or, you may decide that you feel comfortable wearing a breast prosthesis and that you don’t want to go through the additional surgery and recovery that breast reconstruction involves.
I haven’t really considered reconstruction because I think it must be quite difficult to get you looking exactly the same as you were. And I’d never feel it was me really, so I’m quite happy just having the prosthesis.’
Some women plan to have reconstructive surgery after their treatment but then change their minds. They find that the loss of a breast doesn’t trouble them as much they thought it would. Sometimes women decide years after breast cancer surgery that they feel ready to have reconstruction.
If you decide to have it done, you will need to think about the timing of the surgery. It may be possible to have it at the same time as your mastectomy so that you will have a breast shape immediately after the operation. Or you may prefer to finish your cancer treatment first before going ahead with reconstruction.
Other factors may also affect your decisions about reconstruction, such as your general health, relationships, commitments and priorities.
It’s important to have realistic expectations about the possible results of breast reconstruction. It can’t give you a perfect breast. A reconstructed breast won’t have as much sensation and may not ‘move’ as well as your natural breast. Your surgeon will aim to make the new breast as good a match as possible to your other breast, but there may be differences in the size, shape or position of the two breasts. In general, most women are pleased with the results of their surgery, but some women are disappointed
Breast reconstruction usually involves having two or more operations over a period of 6–12 months to get the best appearance for your new breast.
Breast reconstruction doesn’t increase the chance of the cancer coming back. And it doesn’t interfere with your doctors’ ability to detect the cancer if it comes back in the breast area.
It may be helpful to think about the possible benefits and limitations of breast reconstruction before making your decision.
In clothes (including underwear and swimwear), your appearance will be similar to what it was before.
You won’t have to wear external breast prostheses or a special bra.
You will have a cleavage and be able to wear clothes with low necklines.
It can help to restore your self-confidence and feelings of femininity, attractiveness and sexuality.
You will spend more time in hospital and your recovery will take longer.
Most women need several visits to the hospital and further minor operations to get the best cosmetic results.
As with all operations, problems may occur.
You’re unlikely to have much sensation in the new breast.
You may have scars elsewhere on your body (depending on the type of reconstruction.)
You may not be pleased with the result.
You may need to have an operation on your other breast to reduce or increase its size, or to lift it so that both breasts are even.